Interview with Paula Van Kleij-de Keijser

We are very happy that Paula Van Kleij-de Keijser has agreed on taking part in an interview for the Levadeiros of Madeira. Paula is from The Netherlands and has visited Madeira since 1989, at least once a year but mostly 2 or 3 times in a year.

Whales and Dolphins spotting on Madeira
Whales and Dolphins spotting on Madeira

Paula, first of all we want to thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with the readers of our blog. Please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a 53 year young married woman, no children. I used to be a bookkeeper but at the moment I’m doing an education to become a Process Operator. I work hard and as soon as I have enough money to go to Madeira my husband and me will book a Holiday and spend our money on Madeira. We really love the Island.

Can you describe Madeira in just only one word?

How many times have you visited Madeira Island? And when was the first time?
To be honest, I lost count. But with an average of 2.5 times a year and coming the first time in 1989 that would bring it up to something like 50 or 60 times now.

The first time you visited Madeira, what was the reason for your visit?
For Holiday. We were told about the beauty of the Island and the likeliness of getting sunshine.

And what is the reason when you visited it the last time?
Holiday. Whenever we can spare the money to go over we will go. For us, me and my husband it is like coming home. You don’t have any stress of finding out what the good restaurants are, where you could do some shopping, what are nice places to visit and so on. And even when we don’t bother making any tours we always have a good time just enjoying the warmth and the rest. There is nothing we have to do.

“Whenever we can spare the money to go over we will go. For us, me and my husband it is like coming home.”

What are the three best reasons to include Madeira on your travel list?
Good food and drinks, friendly people and the beautiful nature.

When is the best season (for you) to travel to Madeira Island?
I don’t have any preferred season although we try to avoid the most hot period, July, August.
On the other hand, if we stay on the North Side of the Island, mostly we stay in Funchal, summer would be a good season.

Tell us about your most favourite and also the least favourite thing about Madeira.
What was our most favourite thing has turned into our least favourite thing. We loved that the Island wasn’t discovered by mass tourism. And maybe that is still the case. But we don’t like it at all how many new hotels have been built and the way that took part of the unique identity of the Island. Along with other tourist attractions, such as the ridiculous idea, that fortunately for now has been dropped, to build a cable track over the Laurisilva forest.

I think the government should do much more to maintain the unique parts of nature that make it worth visiting as well as other unique attractions such as the old coast road from Sao Vicente to Porto Moniz.

Tourists don’t come to the Island to travel over highways.

Madeira, Bloemeneiland / Flower Island
Madeira, Bloemeneiland / Flower Island

Paula lets talk about food: what is your favorite Madeiran food and that you would suggest everyone should try?
Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato, (clampes with garlic, lemon juice and coriander) and/or polvo en escabeche (octopus in vinagre)

What is the first thing you recommend people to do when they arrive in Madeira?
Put their gear back in Holiday mode and open your nose. Madeira has some particular smels such as the food and of course the flowers.

Where do you recommend to go for a day trip on Madeira Island?
Something you don’t want to miss is the West tour, Paul da Serra, Encumeada, Porto Moniz.

They say that on Madeira you feel less stressed in comparison with the other countries in Europe. Have you noticed this also when you were here?
Yes I did notice that, hence my advice to put your gear back in Holiday mode. You will feel much better if you addept to this less stress environment.

Do you have a place on the island where you feel most comfortable, or had the most fun? Where’s your secret hangout place on Madeira?
Everywhere away from the tourist areas, such as the nice local coffee shops where people go before work to drink a coffee and eat a little bite.

Bloemenfeest / Flower Festival
Bloemenfeest / Flower Festival

What do you think of the locals/people from Madeira?
They are friendly people and you will win them if you try to speak a little Portuguese and treat them as polite as they treat you.

Do you know an ‘off-the-beaten path’ place in Madeira?
I know 2, both situated in Funchal.

The first one is the English cemetery.
There is a very famous German man barried there and hardly anyone seems to know about it. He is called Paul Langerhans and he discovered the Isles of Langerhans, his discovery put down the foundation for the modern diabetics study and treatment.

“I think the government should do much more to maintain the unique parts of nature that make it worth visiting as well as other unique attractions such as the old coast road from Sao Vicente to Porto Moniz.”

Also the Blandy family is barried there. It’s just a peaceful area in the middle of Funchal with very old graves as well.

The second one is a small winery, next to Oliveira’s: Artur de Barros e Sousa, Rua Dos Ferreiros 109

Most island visitors love souvenirs! Which one would you suggest us to buy in Madeira Island?
No doubt about that, we always take a few bottles of Madeira wine. But there are also very nice and colourful ceramic butterflies, dolphins and so on.

Any other thing(s) about Madeira that travelers should know?
The toilet rules.

It is getting less, but still you will still find a lot of toilets, mostly outside of Funchal, that can’t be locked.
The rule is, if the door is open, it is free, if the door is closed it is occupied. So basically you should always tap the door if it is closed just to make sure there is no one in there.

And also a lot of toilets don’t flush very well or even get blocked by the toilet paper. So you will find a basket next to the toilet and you are friendly asked to throw your paper in the basket instead of the toilet.